Written by Joy S on 16 Aug, 2011
The old fishing village of Portrush is built on a promontory jutting out into the ocean. It is a popular seaside town. I used to holiday here as a child with my parents, it has not really changed that much in 30 years.…Read More
The old fishing village of Portrush is built on a promontory jutting out into the ocean. It is a popular seaside town. I used to holiday here as a child with my parents, it has not really changed that much in 30 years. There are pristine sandy beaches, a world famous golf course and lots of interesting places to visit in the vicinity.We based ourselves in Portrush - there are a few hotels and a lot of bed and breakfast places here, it is also convenient for most of the main sights such as Bushmills Distillery and the Giants Causeway.The town itself is small - one little street, full of rather faded and "past it" tacky touristy shops and some amusement arcades. It is not really worth spending much time here - concentrate on the other things the area has to offer.Walk along the dunes of Curran Strand to the limestone cliffs of White Rocks. Alternatively you can park by White Rocks at a car park right next to the beach - it is used by surfers and it is free to park here. If you want to try surfing or body boarding, you can hire all the equipment in the car park at a reasonable rate. The water is so cold though - even on the hottest summer day, it is perishing!Whiterocks Beach stretches from Curran Strand in Portrush to Dunluce Castle. The views are beautiful from the coast road above the beach - the Giants Causeway in one direction and Donegal in the other. The sands are golden and thundering waves and the fierce tides of the Atlantic crash onto the shore. The seas here have caused countless shipwrecks over the years. They have also beaten the soft limestone of the cliffs into arches, coves and headlands with names like Elephant Rock and Lions Paws. There are huge caves and contorted shapes.Whiterocks beach is a must see in the area. It really is a spectacularly beautiful place and a recent recipient of a coveted Blue Flag Award. It can be windy here, but we spent a lovely couple of hours on the beach with our 7 year old. He played in the golden sands, paddled in the (freezing) sea and had great fun climbing up and racing down the steep sand dunes. The rockpools by the cliffs are also a great place to explore and look for sea creatures.In Portrush itself, a visit to Barrys Amusements is something else you have to do with children. It was founded by a member of the Chipperfield Circus family in 1925 and is Ireland's largest amusement park. It is not big though. There are indoor and outdoor rides with classic fairground attractions - a helter skelter, ghost train, dodgems and a vintage carousel. Do not expect any thrills and spills here, just gentle family fun. Entry is free and rides are paid for individually.We ate out at two different restaurants in Portrush during our stay. The first - the Harbour Bar - is wonderful. As its name suggests, it is right on the fishing harbour and does not look like much from the outside. Do not let appearances fool you however - the food is amazing, we all agreed it was the most delicious meal we had eaten in a restaurant in a long time. It is always busy - you can't book, and has a buzzing atmosphere.Bistro 55 in the town centre is another good place to choose. The food here too was delicious - service was a bit lacking and it took about an hour for our food to arrive, but they have a wonderful view over the sea.Portrush, due to its very northerly location is cold and windy a lot of the time. Be aware of this, always bring extra layers and plenty of wet weather gear. The benefit of being so far north though, is you get very long, light days. We walked on the beach at almost ten o'clock in the evening and it was not dark. Close
Written by rufusni on 19 Apr, 2011
Ballintoy is a small village - there is a youth hostel in the village and another further around the coast at White Park Bay (which probably has one of the best views of any youth hostel in the world), a few pubs and a shop,…Read More
Ballintoy is a small village - there is a youth hostel in the village and another further around the coast at White Park Bay (which probably has one of the best views of any youth hostel in the world), a few pubs and a shop, and a small playpark. But its not the village itself that is the attraction. In one direction, heading towards Ballycastle is the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, but heading out of the village in the other direction towards Bushmills/Portrush you can see a small white church on the left-hand side and a road leading down to the harbour. Its a narrow road with some nice bends on it but once you reach the bottom you find a small car park. Its also a good way to get away from coach loads of tourists as the buses can't make it down the road - but in the summer it will be busy as lots of Northern Irish people know it as a place to stop on a day out. The harbour itself is tiny, and so are any boats that are there. There is a small cafe/shop which is only open in the summer season. Unfortunetely this trip, there is work going on to spruce the place up - with new paths being laid and carpark redone, which took away some of the magic of this place. If you asked me before this trip were was my favourite place I would have answered Ballintoy harbour, but I think this time the magic has been lost. But its still lovely- there are lots of rocks to clamber over. If you head up the road, there is a small path way just up above the harbour that leads to a small sandy cove.However, normally if I visit, I don't drive down to the harbour, I actually head out from Ballintoy village along the main road - there is a a wonderful place to stop a bit out of the village for a view before heading to White Park Bay. There is a youth hostel here- but the National Trust maintain the beach area - a wonderful sandy beach with sand dunes and crashing breakers. I normally park in the car park here - and head down the steep and stony path with steps down to the beach, and walk the length of the beach and round the headland and onto the harbour at Ballintoy - enjoy a cuppa and head back - its a good few miles - but the setting is magnificent for a walk! But time didn't permit this time, as it was a quick sightseeing tour with my American friend - but its on my list for the near future as even being up there made me remember why I loved it so much! And maybe I can reclaim the magic and make it my favourite place once again ( but there are some many other wonderful places to choose from as well!) Close
Written by hagnel2 on 21 Nov, 2006
Portrush has many attractions but best of all are its wonderful blue flag beaches. Its main center is a delightful town of well-maintained Georgian buildings and a picturesque harbour which still supports fishing fleets and pleasure yachts. It is not your typical bingo hall and…Read More
Portrush has many attractions but best of all are its wonderful blue flag beaches. Its main center is a delightful town of well-maintained Georgian buildings and a picturesque harbour which still supports fishing fleets and pleasure yachts. It is not your typical bingo hall and candy floss seaside resort, as well as beaches the town is well supplied with amusements including an all weather water center and adventure playground.Fantasy Island and Dunluce Center are indoor venues that certainly provide an outlet on rainy days with a variety of activities. Virtual reality rides and family attractions are featured in Dunluce and Water World offers flumes, slides, Jacuzzis, aquarium and restaurant all on a pirate theme. There is also an outdoor old fashioned fun fair complete with Roller coaster, Ferris wheel and other fun fair amusements in short lots of opportunities aside from beach and surf. We were there in October and so everything was closed, however, we were able to see the huge waterpark directly on the harbour as we walked around the lovely town noting nice restaurants cafes and enticing shops.We called in at the Harbour bar for a pub lunch, just a sandwich and a side order of the black stuff found in every bar in Ireland. This old bar is close by the harbour and PortrushYacht Club. We had hoped to have a meal in the Yacht club but it was closed and as it was raining heavily we ducked into the nearest shelter. The pub (circa late 18th century) had been re-furbished. On the first and second floor are very large modern rooms one floor holds an elegant wine bar and Bistro and the top floor a nightclub. The ground floor pub had been left as it always was oozing with character and looking and smelling like a pub.We found two dimly lit rooms with original wide plank flooring. Both rooms were adorned with photographs of sailing ships and a collection of Victoriana. All the furnishings were original, scarred oak tables, well used seating and original fireplace. Some workmen were having drinks at the bar and as that room was tiny and smoke filled we opted for the back snug room. We spent a good hour chatting with the pubs manager and he told us about a path we could take to view Dunluce castle he drew us a rough map and was so friendly we were sure he would want to show us the way, and so after lunch we set out and were grateful to note that the rain had ceased but the sky remained overcast.The trail was a real find for us and one of our highlights. Initially it is part of the coast trail that starts at Portstewart and runs to the Causeway, Rope Bridge, and beyond.Portrush lies on a peninsula that juts out into the wild Atlantic it is also a place popular for surfing, we noted waves of around six feet and stores selling boards and wetsuits. We strolled along the Curran Strand (East strand Beach) and accessed a signed footpath to Dunluce it is an exhilarating and scenic walk shadowed by sheer limestone cliffs that plunge into the sea. Seabirds screech above the roar of the surf and stretching along the coast is a labyrinth of caves with magical arches. The beaches are simply some of the best I have seen in Ireland. The walk to Dunluce is about three Kilometers and is an easy walk with guaranteed scenery. On clear days you will have superb views over the skerries to the Scottish islands. Do wear appropriate shoes because the paths can become very slippery and a good raincoat is a must especially in October. Close
We picked up the Antrim coast road at Larne a busy port for Ferries and gateway to the causeway coast and Glens of Antrim. The spectacular Antrim coast starts at Larne (A2 North) all the way to Ballycastle. The road is well signed and on its…Read More
We picked up the Antrim coast road at Larne a busy port for Ferries and gateway to the causeway coast and Glens of Antrim. The spectacular Antrim coast starts at Larne (A2 North) all the way to Ballycastle. The road is well signed and on its route you will be treated to amazing views of the blue Atlantic, pass through scenic villages, dense woods and sometimes-serpentine lane width roads rimming cliff tops that plunge into an incredibly deep blue sea. We had visited the Giants Causeway the day before and our destination on this leg of the coast was Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge. The start of the famous nine Glens of Antrim begins at the 12th-century village of Glenarm. Each of the nine glens were named in ancient times, Glenarm means Glen of the army its castle is the ancestral home of the Mac Donnells who retreated here from Carrickfergus, the 15th earl of Antrim still resides here and its 800 acre park is open to the public, but being out of season we carried on along the coast way past Carnlough (where Winston Churchill once owned an inn) to Glenariff. Glenariff dubbed Queen Of The Glens is known for its waterfalls, forests, and drop-dead scenery.We stopped in the tiny village of waterfoot and bought provisions for a picnic its beautiful crescent shaped beach edged with Dunes was a perfect spot. The soft sandy beach was almost deserted apart from two people digging for bait worms. This is definitely an area of outstanding beauty and is well supplied with picnic tables; toilets and four signed walking trails through Glenariff Forest (1-9k lengths). The village itself is more than pretty the wide streets and pastel painted buildings appear as if they belong on a movie set. Many tourists visit the Queen Of The Glens Forest Park we didn’t visit the forest but I bought postcards and on them its waterfalls appear to be impressive.Continuing this coast drive, the seas on one side and towering cliffs on the other we certainly felt we were traveling in paradise and the next village of Cushendun clinched that image. Cushendun is just a short detour off the A2. Clough Williams-Ellis designed the fantasy village in Portmerion in Wales older readers might remember the 1967-8 cult TV series “The Prisoner” featuring Patrick Mc Goohan. Williams designed Portmerion on the scale of a tiny Italianate Mediterranean village.After moving to Cushendum Williams Cornish wife became homesick and so he set about creating architecture more to her tastes. The rugged whitewashed cottages were built around 1912 and remain in good shape mainly because the village is now owned by the National trust. Williams also designed Lord Cushenduns house, however, that building is now a nursing home and not open to the public. We drove through the village and past the cottages the dull gray skies threatened rain and so we didn’t linger. Our route from Cushendun to Torr head was hardly wider than a country lane and a switchback, however, it was one of the most scenically stunning drives we have ever taken in Ireland. Torr head was once a strategic signaling and lookout station for transatlantic shipping. Now the old signaling station (first century Fort site) is a shelter for sheep and a wild sea continues to rage around its headlands. From its summit you have splendid views over the Scottish coast and offshore to the east you can see Rathin Island and over to the Mull Of Kintyre. There are also a few passage tombs that once again were well hidden; these megaliths were first erected in Ulster 4.000-6.000 years ago despite their presence on the information board at Torr head we could not find one. The coastguard houses beside the parking lot were abandoned in 1920 but this is still a popular salmon fishery. During late spring the nets are stretched across the bay to catch the spawning fish they can be seen clearly from the coastguard station. This is a do not miss spot for scenery.We continued along the road past lovely Murlough Bay to Ballycastle and Carrick a Rede. (See entry Rope Bridge.) We finished our lovely day with a short walk around Ballintoy’s picturesque harbour. Close
Written by Leesa on 26 Nov, 2001
Growing up in England in the 1970’s, Northern Ireland is synonymous with bombings and terrorism and despite the recent ceasefires we were a little apprehensive about travelling to the North with a car with plates from the Republic and speaking with English accents. Even…Read More
Growing up in England in the 1970’s, Northern Ireland is synonymous with bombings and terrorism and despite the recent ceasefires we were a little apprehensive about travelling to the North with a car with plates from the Republic and speaking with English accents. Even Irish friends admitted it was a holiday destination they hadn’t considered. Navigating on our journey up from Dublin it was startling how many of the towns we had heard off in association with violence – Crossmaglen, Newry, Omagh, Enniskellen. My boyfriend wanted me to navigate a route round Belfast when we got stuck in traffic until I read out possible roads such as Falls Road, Shankill Road, and only a whim to further explore the Antrim Coast saved us from being in Derry (Londonderry) on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
From our experience and that of friends of ours with Northern connections Northern Ireland is a safe place to travel. The current bombings and shootings are targeted sectarian attacks, and typically in the poorer estates where passions run higher. Just stick to tourist attractions and town centres, and avoid the Marching Season and gatherings in remembrance of a bloody past. Above all, do not get into discussions about the ‘Irish problem’ however much you think you understand it. First of all, you never know who you are talking to, and secondly I sense the Irish (both North and South) find it insulting when a foreigner arrives preaching what they need to do when it is something they have battled with for generations.
For those interested in exploration, check out www.discovernorthernireland.com for ideas.